This final chapter of the ministry of Jesus is a magnificant speech, the longest uninterrupted words of Jesus in the Gospel with just the one comment by the evangelist (13,14).
This speech has had many different interpretations. Our approach as usual will be to look closely at the text. Once we have had our overview arising from this, we will be clear about the speech's genre. This will guide our reading.
With this speech, the evangelist pauses the story of the Gospel at a key moment. Before reading the speech, we need to look its context, just where it has been placed in the story. What comes before (13,1-2) and after (chapters 14-15)? For a clue to my thinking, see John 2,21.
We have already read the first two verses, 13,1-2. We took them to be the conclusion to chapter 12 because they told of Jesus' departure from the Temple. The immediate setting for the speech comes therefore only with the change of scene in verse 3 and Jesus' arrival on the Mount of Olives.
Read now from 13,3 through to the end of the chapter, 13,37, and pick up some first impressions about the speech. Two questions are put to Jesus in verse 4. How does he reply to them in the different parts of the chapter? What might be the highlight of the chapter? Can you spot the underlying theme of this chapter as presented by its keywords? (As so often, translations tend to make this obscure. The original RSV is helpful here.)
Note as well the importance of verbs in the future tense and imperatives in this chapter.
Look now at 13,34-37 and then at Mt 24,42 and Lk 21,36-38. What does this tell us about Mark's conclusion to the speech?
With that in mind, what do you think might be the purpose of this chapter? Who might be the real audience of this chapter? See verses 7 and 13 and also verse 4 in the NABRE.
Taking that a step further, think about what might be the style or genre of this speech. For a clue see 6,4.15. Why is this important?
It is useful to compare this speech with the other long speech in this Gospel, the parables in chapter 4. What is the keyword in that chapter?
Then have a look at my response.
The speech is set up in 13,3-4 which we will read more closely on the next page. For our overview we begin with the two questions which as we have seen are asked by the disciples in verse 4.
From your first read through, can you see the verses where Jesus answers these questions? How do his answers provide a frame for our reading?
For this, try to spot "brackets" the evangelist has formed around the various parts of the speech. Bear in mind the keywords we have discovered.
Consider the theme of the final verses and then consider the theme of the middle portion. What might be the key word used to answer the disciples' questions?
From all this, try to draw up an outline for the speech, 13,5-37, looking for the three main parts. Remember that the text itself is our guide.
Then have a look at my response.
For our reading of the speech, we need to avoid making pages too long. We will therefore read as follows:
The setting of the speech, 13,3-4, we will begin our first page. We will follow it with a more detailed overview of the first part of the speech, 13,5-23.
To this we will add a review of the Old and New Testament background to the speech.
We will then read the first part of the speech itself, 13,5-23, as the second page of our reading. Within the overall theme of watching, look out!, this will be Jesus' teaching about "what?" are the signs.
The second and third parts of the speech, 13,24-33 and 13,34-37, the parts which consider the "when?" question of the disciples, we will read as our third page.
We can now move on to look at the setting of this passage, 13,3-4 and a detailed overview of 13,5-23.